Sunday, March 11, 2012

Amy Atwell talks about social media and the writer.

Good Morning to all this fine Monday. I'm bringing in a friend to discuss the writer and social media. Its true that writing is a verb. Writers - write, but it's also true in this day of limited attention spans that we must labor to not only write but get our "name", our "brand" out in the public eye. So I brought in the big guns, Amy Atwell a fellow RWA member, a mover and shaker in the world or writing. Here's a bit of back ground on Amy. You'll quickly see that Amy doesn't flirt around. She's on a mission and when you best step up to the plate when you hang in her circle.

Amy Atwell worked in professional theater management for 15 years before turning from the stage to the page to write fiction. She now gives her imagination free rein in both contemporary and historical stories that combine adventure and romance. Her historical romance AMBERSLEY hit the Top 100 on both Kindle and Nook and has sold over 30,000 copies. When not writing, Amy runs the WritingGIAM online community for goal-oriented writers and has recently launched Author E.M.S., the online business resource library for authors. An Ohio native, Amy now resides on a barrier island in Florida with her husband, two Russian Blues and a demon kitten. Visit her online at her website, Magical Musings, Facebook, Twitter and/or GoodReads.

Amy has agreed to give her expertise and answer questions today, so don't hesitate to ask. If any one knows.. its Amy.

Thank you, Nancy, for inviting me to meet your readers today. I’m a bit of an extrovert, so I love meeting new people!

Social Media: Balm or Bane for Authors?

How many of you use some form of social media? Facebook and Twitter seem to be the bastions most popular with authors today. But there’s also LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, StumbleUpon and more. Social networking is what drives GoodReads, Shelfari and LibraryThing. Even Pandora radio lets you create a profile page and encourages a community of listeners.
Many authors find it all overwhelming. It’s a challenge to find enough time to write fiction, much less post and pin and tweet. So where is the sweet spot? Just how important is social media to authors?
If you’re serious about a long-term writing career, social media will continue to be an important and viable source of promotion and audience building. But, and here’s the key, it’s only going to work for you if—

1. You find at least one of social network that you enjoy.
2. You strike a balance between your online social networking and your writing.
3. You approach social networking with the same imagination and commitment you bring to your writing.

Doesn’t sound too scary, does it?
Here’s why I think it’s important—the Internet isn’t likely to disappear. Millions of people are on it, and millions more are buying smart phones and tablets because they can’t get enough of it. In some ways, our society is growing more fragmented, with less person to person interaction in real life. At the same time, people seek out and savor their interactions on social media.
This is where social media works so well for authors. Most stories have some element of human connection at the core of the story. A hero learning to trust. A heroine returning to confront her hometown memories. A family on the brink of disaster brought whole again.
The readers who love those kinds of stories are out there in social media as squawking and hungry as birds. Keep tossing out birdseed on a regular basis, and those birds will find their way to you. Readers who connect with you and your stories will become loyal fans. They will spread the word for you. Remember the old shampoo commercial? “And they’ll tell two friends, and they’ll tell two friends…” and so on and so on.
That’s the magic of social networking.
You may be a pantser when you write but plotting or, rather, planning ahead will save you a lot of headaches with social media. Make a game plan for yourself so you can make the most of your social networking. And if you’re not published yet, it’s not too early to get a jump start on this. By all means, start to build your tribe now.

1. Study the different social networks and decide which one(s) best match how you want to communicate with potential fans and fellow authors.
2. Secure your profiles on any (frankly, I would do all just in case) social network you plan to use. Ideally, use your writing name.
3. Find an image and write a short bio so your profiles are consistent.
4. Make a list of the topics you will discuss—and not discuss—on social networking. You want to be personable and friendly in your interactions, but remember anything you say can come back to bite you and your career.
5. Start slowly and blend in. Join in other conversations, repeat items of interest, help your fellow authors. Don’t just pop in and shout about your book.
6. Ask questions! Experienced users love to help newbies.
7. Set aside some time weekly, 30-60 minutes to seek out people to follow and friend.
8. Be gracious. Send thank yous to people who repeat your messages.
9. Tend your social network account(s) daily, whenever possible. Each day you miss, you will lose a bit of momentum. 15 minutes is all it takes, really!
10. Be prepared to adapt as the social networks grow and change.

I’ll mention that Facebook is in the midst of rolling out its new Timeline design. Both personal profiles and business (author) pages are changing. You can read a full article on it on Author E.M.S., the online business resource library for authors.
I hope some of that was helpful. I’m happy to field any other questions you might have about social media—so, tell me, what’s your biggest fear or frustration with social networks?


Nancy said...

Lots of good information here. I wasn't sure about the new timeline on FB. But the more I played with it the better I do like it. There's so much media out there, Amy how many sites are good? If you are new should you limit yourself to FB, Twitter, Goodreads until you get the hang of it?

Carol Kilgore said...

I've been blogging for a couple of years with no problems, but Facebook and Twitter continue to frustrate me. I can't seem to get a good toehold with either. At Goodreads, it's so-so.

Cynthia D'Alba said...

I hear so much about pinterest but I can't see the appeal. I understand WHAT it is but is this really something readers would want to mess with? I mean, there is no real interaction, just the ability to look at your pictures, right?

I've pretty much limited myself to twitter, FB, Goodreads and blogging (although I'm wondering about the value of that to draw readers.) IMHO, writers can find themselves using up all their creativity on these online endeavors, draining their tanks when it comes to writing books.

So what are the absolute important places to be to find readers?

Amy Atwell said...

Thanks again, Nancy, for inviting me. Looks like you and Cyndi have a similar question. I wish there was a perfect answer, but there isn't. It really depends on what works for YOU. I would say that when you're starting out, start small. Get to know one or two social networks. As you use them, you'll gain efficiency with proficiency. Once it becomes second nature to tweet, for example, then it's not too overwhelming to add Google+ onto the heap. But, if you're new to all of this and you try to join them all at once? You'll drive yourself mad!

Amy Atwell said...

Carol, I've come to love Twitter. It evolves without completely changing. FB has been a bit more of a challenge and this new Timeline rollout has made it a more image-centric network. (By that, I mean it encourages you to post lots more pix.)

I love using GoodReads as a reader, but I still feel awkward as an author. I worry that any heavy promotional push will be met with skepticism. So, I'm taking my time there. (Note to self: add some of my recently read book reviews.)

Amy Atwell said...

Cyndi asked: So what are the absolute important places to be to find readers?

While I think social networking can contribute to an author's success and help build a broader audience, the fact is, you don't HAVE to do a lot of it. Case in point: last fall, I hit the Top 100 on both Amazon and B&N. I hadn't blogged in months. I was almost never on Twitter. I posted a few times on FB and LinkedIn, but probably not more than once per week. Readers found me because of the visibility of my book on Amazon and B&N.

There are lots of book reviewers now using FB, Twitter and GoodReads to share their reviews and build their own audiences. I think it's worthwhile to be on these three networks. If you write under your real name, LinkedIn is great as a way to connect with non-writers from your past. School-mates, former co-workers. And don't discount Shelfari, which is now owned by Amazon and links to Amazon.

You can keep tabs on the overall specs of each social network here: We update the # of users and other key data monthly.

Nancy said...

I have to admit, I enjoy twitter. FB I'm getting the hang of and I notice more publishers hanging out there, posting submission guidelines. Do you do much posting on Amazon blogs. I was a bit put off on their discussions. I also hear to spread yourself around. Don't limit to one e pub or just self pub but having other avenues pulls readers toward you. Is this a sound idea?

Nancy said...

OH and by they way. Welcome Cynthia and Carol to the blog. I do so appreciate you coming by.

Marin Thomas said...

Hi Amy...great advice! what I find difficult is that when we do start connecting with our readers social media becomes "fun" and then it takes even more discipline to keep away from it until I meet my daily writing goals.

Amy Atwell said...

Nancy said: "Do you do much posting on Amazon blogs? I also hear to spread yourself around. Don't limit to one e pub or just self pub but having other avenues pulls readers toward you. Is this a sound idea?"

I assume you're referring to the Kindle Boards. I'll admit, I've avoided them. Not that they aren't worthwhile, they just haven't been at the top of my priority list. I don't own a Kindle myself (Nook owner, here), so that plays into my decision.

And yes, I think spreading yourself around to reach a broader audience is smart. I love being part of the Magical Musings. The authors publish with many different print and digital publishers, and most of us are also indie authors.

Amy Atwell said...

Marin, you're so right. You do want to socialize and build a community with your readers, but it's important to manage how much time you allot to it. Writing should come first. I use Tweetdeck to make it really easy for me to hop in and out of Twitter. I can monitor lots of streams at once, post and schedule tweets.

Sandy said...

I get so many emails from Facebook that I could just scream. I want to turn it off but haven't been able to find it.

I do belong to some groups on Facebook that I'm interested in. Social Media is overwhelming for me.

Joan Leacott said...

Hi Amy, I started with a FB profile, then added an author page. I'm trying to decide whether to keep both, or focus on just the author page. Do you have any advice to make my decision easier?

Nancy said...

Welcome Marin, Sandy, and Joan. Glad you could make it here. Amy has the best advice.

Amy Atwell said...

Sandy said: "I get so many emails from Facebook that I could just scream. I want to turn it off but haven't been able to find it."

I agree that social media can be maddening. Try this to adjust how much email you get Go to your FB profile, and then copy and past this URL into your browser window:

It should take you right to the page where you can edit all your notifications. The less boxes you check, the less email you should receive.

Amy Atwell said...

Joan said: "I started with a FB profile, then added an author page. I'm trying to decide whether to keep both, or focus on just the author page. Do you have any advice to make my decision easier?"

I still recommend having both and here's why. Profiles are what allow you to go out and connect person to person with others. With just a Page you cannot initiate friendships. But a Profile doesn't let you advertise or give you the cool analytics. I think having both is very useful for authors. If you use your Profile for personal socializing with family and close friends, be sure to put them into lists so you can select to share information just with them.

Joan Leacott said...

Thanks, Amy. Your logic is perfectly--logical. :)

Louise Behiel said...

thanks for the information, amy. As always, you're bubbling over with helpful tidbits.

I tried to paste the link to review my notifications but got nowhere. came up with no results found. so obviously i'm doing something wrong. but i'd sure like to decrease my email

Stacey Joy Netzel said...

Thanks for the great advice! I'm still finding my way through the social media bog. Sometimes I do just ignore it all and write.

Nancy said...

I want to thank Amy Atwell for a great day. I sure enjoyed reading everyone's questions and Amy's answers. Thank you all for coming by and next time your whizzing through, stop by and see what's happening.


Amy Atwell said...

Thank you again, Nancy! I had a great time.

Louise, try this way to get to FB notifications. Go to your Profile, click the little down carrot to the right of home in the top right portion of your screen. Choose Account Settings from the drop down. When the new screen loads, in the left sidebar will be an option for Notifications. Click that. Hope that helps!

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